One can sometimes have great, deep thoughts at elevated altitudes, which usually reveal themselves as nonsense once one returns to a lower, livable altitude.
That’s not really true in my case. At the beginning of our most-recent Asian excursion my feelings inclined more to irritation and annoyance.
“Make sure that you move around as much as you can during this fourteen hour flight between Toronto and Guong Zhou. That woman, Carol, who spoke about Nepal at Abbotsford House on Bank Street had a son who had been doing a lot of long, international flights and he died of something called deep vein thrombosis.”
“Jeezus Murphy,” I said to my wife, Brenda, after hearing this. “Good thing you never tried to make your living as a motivational speaker. You expect me to get on a plane where just one stage of the flight is fourteen hours after you tell me that!”
It was fourteen and one half hours to Guang Zhou, China from Toronto, a six hour wait in the airport in China and then finally a four and a half hour flight to Kathmandu. The worst part of the whole ‘experience’ is when I got on the plane in Toronto and found my seat. I was wedged in between two others, naturally. Which is when the second stage of my whining commenced.
“You know how I don’t even like flying anyway, and how claustrophobic I am.” I began to panic. I glanced about wildly. There was still time. “I’m getting the hell off.”
Brenda had been more fortunate. She had an aisle seat, right beside a Chinese woman with two children under the age of four. The younger one was already crawling all over the adjacent seats.
“Okay,” said Brenda, “We can trade, if that’s what you want. Are you ready to do some baby-sitting?”
Better that than screaming in anguish for the next several hours. I didn’t want to test the patience of China Southern Airlines. After all I read in the media about how the Chinese deal with dissidents.
Actually, I was very impressed, as it turned out. The flight attendants obviously knew that constant feeding would sooth the savage breast and even the little guy beside me, after taking one look at me, stayed on his best behaviour. Stage One of the trip was almost over; getting there. I never know what to expect with one of Brenda’s trips, except that you can bet I’ll get sick somewhere along the way.
At some point our three flights were over and the fun was supposed to start. Don’t think that I didn’t wonder what a sixty one year old man was doing going on an almost three week trek in the Himalayas , but reality and I have never had a close relationship anyway. The taxi ride from the airport on the outskirts of Kathmandu into the city centre was interesting to say the least. It was terrifying to say the most.
I’ve driven in many countries in Europe and rented a car for three memorable weeks in Turkey, but I’ve never seen anything like this. There were no lanes and seemingly no rules. Traffic weaved to and fro and missed each other going head on by centimetres. No one batted an eye. Most of the pedestrians, some of the bravest souls I could ever imagine, were wearing those surgical masks to make sure their lungs still functioned if they ever made it to their destination alive.
If they ever decided to give the world an enema, they’d make the injection in Kathmandu. We had a hotel booked. I was just dreading to see what Brenda had come up with this time.
A gem, as it turned out. The Kathmandu Guest House was the Garden of Eden. Adequate rooms, but an exquisite garden of an inner courtyard with engraved stones of famous former guests. The Beatles had their own stone and I imagined that their stay was a stop on their way to India, when they started the spiritual stage of their immortal careers.
I’ve been on a spiritual search for most of my very mortal career, but if you visit the Kathmandu Guest House I can’t guarantee a stone with my name on it.